by Esmerelda Weatherwax (September 2009)
I still don’t know what to make of this brewing brouhaha in Loughton that I reported on earlier this month here. This isn't really an update, merely some further information and a few more thoughts.
As I said, I have been following the story of Mr Noor Ramjanally of the pleasant Essex town of Loughton and his allegations of increasing threats for his attempts to spread Islamic worship in town.
I know Loughton, so, some background.
It is a town to the North east of London, just outside the Greater London boundary so it comes under Essex County Council but it is served by London Underground on the Central Line.
The area called Loughton, which includes Buckhurst Hill and some might include Chigwell (if you watched the TV series Birds of a Feather you know exactly where I mean) is leafy, prosperous, middle class, or aspiring to such. In the 1950s an East End overflow housing estate was built next door in Debden. If anybody knows Young and Wilmott’s 1957 work Family and Kinship in East London then Debden was the estate they studied as Greenleigh.
Many of the people who live in Loughton have left places 5-6 miles away like Leyton, Ilford or Newham for what they hope will be a better environment for their families. These families include Jewish, Hindu and Sikh professional and business men and women.
Debden has returned some BNP councilors, one of whom is Pat Richardson. She is usually referred to when it is asserted that the BNP is overcoming its racist roots because she is Jewish.
It started in March when Mr Ramjanally who until then had worshiped at the South Woodford Mosque in Mulberry Way South Woodford which is 3 miles away and just into the Greater London area decided to branch out.
He started to hire a room at the Murray Hall (named after Len Murray former General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress who lived nearby) Community centre in Borders Lane for several hours on Friday for Islamic prayer. Leaving aside local assertions that when Murray Hall was opened it was specified that no religious activities take place, I know several churches who rent space where they can, over a pub in Dagenham in one case, for services. Those churches are, however always specific that their church is the people, and the premises not their own. Worship started with 9 men but grew to sometimes as many as 80 worshipers, although the usual number is, apparently 40-50.
Mr Ramjanally however set up a website for what he calls the Loughton Masjid which gives the impression to the casual observer that the Borders Lane address is solely that of a Mosque. This is causing concern that it is an attempt to open a Mosque in Loughton, an area with very few Muslims at the moment, but that more will be attracted to join a Mosque.
Exactly that happened in nearby Leyton and Walthamstow. A small building is taken as an ‘Islamic Association’. Very soon it becomes a Mosque. It grows. It needs more space for a larger congregation, classes, bookshops. They buy the shops next door and the houses behind. But it’s still not big enough. They decide to knock what they have down and build a huge 3 or 4 floor building, with a dome and a minaret to dominate the area. The council and local residents object. Friday prayers spill out into the street and worshippers block the public roads on their knees to prove that more space is needed.
I saw this myself in Leyton and Walthamstow, with the Lea Bridge Road and Queen’s Road Mosques.
All over the country local residents are now objecting to Mosque building and development with greater expertise on planning issues like parking or noise abatement and have been successful in limiting some expansion.
On 1st July Mr Ramjanally reported that he had received a threat that said “We know where your child attends school and what car you drive”.
Threatening someone’s child is reprehensible. No excuses for that.
The next day the front door of his flat was set alight, described in later reports as a firebomb.
The report in the local Epping Forest Guardian is here. Essex Police have confirmed they are investigating both incidents as racially motivated.
The next thing that happened was that the BNP councillors wrote in their Epping Forest Patriot newsletter objecting to any ‘stealth campaign to turn Murray Hall into Murray Mosque’. It wasn’t couched in the most measured of language, well we are talking about the BNP here, but the history of other mosque expansion I described above is accurate.
The importance to Muslims of their sacred space, that land once held by Islam is Islamic forevermore has been explained very thoroughly by the reputable Dr Sookhedeo of the Barnabas Fund here and elsewhere.
The newsletter (copy below)was reported to the police and Loughton Inspector Tom Simons said it was “unhelpful” but did not break the law. The BNP were accused of trying to stir up race hatred, which they denied.
Wednesday this week the national Guardian (not the local paper; the Essex Guardian group is completely separate) reported that Mr Ramjanally had been abducted.
Police have confirmed they are treating the incident as a hate crime and are investigating links with an earlier firebomb attack on the same man's home.
A BNP campaign has been blamed for rising tensions in the area. The party has been leafleting the area warning of "Islamification" which it says flows from the weekly two-hour prayer session, which it claims is a prelude to a mosque being built.
Ramjanally said he was abducted from his home in daylight by two white men who threatened him with a knife, bundled him into a car then drove him into woodland. They demanded he stop organising the Friday prayer sessions at Murray hall community centre. He said the words from his abductors matched the BNP propaganda opposing the Muslim prayers. The same demand was contained in hate mail he received last month threatening his wife and child, he said.
Councillor Pat Richardson, leader of the BNP group on the local council, said her party was not behind the attacks on Ramjanally. "Firebombing is not a British method. A brick through the window is a British method, but firebombing is not a way of showing displeasure," she said.
"It was two white men. They put a knife upon my stomach, and said do what you're told or you'll get hurt." He said he was then bundled into the boot of a 4 x 4 vehicle, with one of the men holding a knife to his chest.
Ramjanally said he was driven for 10 minutes to nearby Epping Forest, walked around, and then threatened: "They said 'We don't want your Islamic group in Loughton.' I was scared, I feared for my life. I was in a forest, a knife was held against me, how would you feel? They said, 'If you don't stop, we'll come back.'"
The attackers then left Ramjanally alone in the woods.
He added: “They walked with me deep into the forest and said: We don't want the Islamic group in Loughton. If you don't stop, we'll come back'. Then they disappeared.
“The men did not say anything about the BNP or who they were. But it is only the BNP who want my Islamic group out of Loughton. I believe the BNP campaign has inspired the violence.”
She also denied that BNP members were behind any violence. She believes that the weekly Muslim prayer meeting is a prelude to an attempt to encourage more Muslims to move into the area, and thus to vote out the BNP. "I was wondering whether it was a ploy to attract more Muslims to the area to try and vote out the BNP councillors," she said.
Interestingly the local radio station reports the incident with inverted commas round the word abducted. Heart FM - Community leader 'abducted'
This is Ramjanally being interviewed by the BBC.
And this is his interview as part of the report by Islam Channel News.
Correction - that was his interview. After his arrest on Thursday 3 Sept access to this video was made private, as one of our readers alerted me.
For the BBC he produces the BNP 'Patriot' newsletter like a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat. A little too pat, in my opinion.
IslamNews cut to it for the benefit of the viewer. They also interviewed a BNP spokesman. The IslamNews presenter seems to be of the opinion that the reluctance of the White Working Class inhabitants of Loughton to embrace the idea of more Muslim immigration and/or a Mosque in Loughton is mere paranoia. He said that if more Muslims move into the area they will be able to vote the BNP councillors out.
I will let you make up your minds about his story and demeanour on camera and we shall see what the police investigation comes up with. My personal view is that new mosques should be countered, but through the use of planning regulations and lobbying of councillors and MPs.
Clicking on the button marked ‘services’ I expected to find the times of Friday prayer. What I actually found was this.
In the name of Allah the most merciful and grateful
KRAV MAGA is being used by many Police Forces in another part of the World. The good thing is that you dont have to be muscular or big to be good. Its a meant to be something that anyone can use in any situation where they are under attack.
He was charged with that offence on Friday 4th September and bailed to Harlow Magistrates Court later this month.